And here comes my dear brother, exclaimed Mary Ashwoode, joyously, as she ran to welcome the young man, now entering her father's room, in which, for more than an hour previously, she had been sitting. Throwing her arm round his neck, and looking sweetly in his face, she continued You will stay with us this evening, dear Harrydo, for my sakeyou won't refuse itis so long since we have had you; and though she spoke with a gay look and a gladsome voice, a sense of real solitariness called a tear to her dark eye.
No, Marynot this evening, said the young man coldly; I must be in town again to-night, and before I go must have some conversation upon business with my father, so that I may not see you again till morning.
But, dear Henry, said she, still clinging affectionately to his arm, you have been in such danger, and I knew nothing of it until after you went out this morning: are you quite well, Henry?you were not hurtwere you?
No, nonothingnothingI never was better, said he, impatiently.
Well, brotherdear brother, she continued imploringly, come early home to-nightdo not be upon the road latewon't you promise?
There, there, there, said he rudely, run awaytake your work, or your book, or whatever it may be, down stairs; your father wants to speak with me alone, and so saying, he turned pettishly from her.
His habitual coldness and carelessness of manner had never before seemed so ungracious. The poor girl felt her heart swell within her, as though it would burst. She had never felt so keenly that in all this world there lived but one being upon whose love she might rely, and he separated, it might be for ever, from her: she gathered up her work, and ran quickly from the room, to hide the tears which she could not restrain.
Young Ashwoode was to the full as worldly and as unprincipled a man as was his father; and whatever reluctance he may have felt as to adopting Sir Richard's plans respecting O'Connor, the reader would grievously wrong him in attributing his unwillingness to any visitings of gratitude, or, indeed, to any other feeling than that which he had himself avowed. A few hours' reflection had satisfied the young man of the transcendent importance of securing Lord Aspenly; and by a corresponding induction he had arrived at the conclusion to which his father had already comenamely, that it was imperatively necessary by all means to put an end effectually to his sister's correspondence with O'Connor. To effect this object both were equally resolved; and with respect to the means to be employed both were equally unscrupulous. With Henry Ashwoode courage was constitutional, and art habitual. If therefore, either duplicity or daring could ensure success, he felt that he must triumph; and, at all events, he was sufficiently impressed with the importance of the object, to resolve to leave nothing untried for its achievement.
You are punctual, sir, said Sir Richard, glancing at his richly-chased watch; sit down; I have considered your suggestions of this morning, and I am inclined to adopt them; it is most probable that Mary, like the rest of her sex, will be taken by the splendour of the proposalfascinatedin short, as I said this morningdazzled. Now, whether she be or notobserve me, it shall be our object to make O'Connor believe that she is so. You will have his ear, and through her maid, Carey, I can manage their correspondence; not a letter from either can reach the other, without first meeting my eye. I am very certain that the young fellow will lose no time in writing to her some more of those passionate epistles, of which, as I told you, I have seen a sample. I shall take care to have their letters re-written for the future, before they come to hand; and it shall go hard, or between us we shall manage to give each a very moderate opinion of the other's constancy; thus the affair willor rather mustdie a natural death after all, the most effectual kind of mortality in such cases.
I called to-day upon the fellow, said the young man. I
p.74made him out, and without approaching the point of nearest interest, I have, nevertheless, opened operations successfullyso far as a most auspicious re-commencement of our acquaintance may be so accounted.
And, stranger still to say, rejoined the baronet, I also encountered him to-day; but only for some dozen seconds.
How!saw O'Connor! exclaimed young Ashwoode.
Yes, sir, O'ConnorEdmond O'Connor, repeated Sir Richard. He was coolly walking up to the house to see me, as it would seem; and I do believe the fellow speaks truthhe did see me, and that is all. I fancy he will scarcely come here again uninvited; he said so pretty plainly, and I believe the fellow has spirit enough to feel an affront.
He did not see Mary? inquired Henry.
I did not ask him, and don't choose to ask her; I don't mean to allude to the subject in her presence, replied Sir Richard, quickly. I thinkindeed I knowI can mar their plans better by appearing never once to apprehend anything from O'Connor's pretensions. I have reasons, too, for not wishing to deal harshly with Mary at present; we must have no scenes, if possible. Were I to appear suspicious and uneasy, it would put them on their guard. And now, upon the other point, did you speak to Craven about the possibility of raising ten thousand pounds on the Glenvarlogh property?
He says it can be done very easily, if Mary joins you, replied the young man; but I have been thinking that if you ask her to sign any deed, it might as well be one assigning over her interest absolutely to you. Aspenly does not want a penny with herin fact, from what fell from him to-day, when I met him in town, I'm inclined to think he believes that she has not a penny in the world; so she may as well make it over to you, and then we can turn it all into money when and how we please. I desired Craven to work night and day at the deeds, and have them over by ten o'clock to-morrow morning.
You did quite rightly, rejoined the old gentleman. I hardly expect any opposition from the girlat least no more than I can easily frighten her out of. Should she prove sulky, however, I do not well know where to turn: as to asking my brother Oliver, I might as well, or better, ask a Jew broker; he hates me and mine with his whole heart; and to say the truth, there is not much love lost between us. No, no, there's nothing to be looked for in that quarter. I daresay we'll manage one way or anotherlead or drive to get Mary to sign the deed, and if so, the ship rights again. Craven come?, you say, at ten to-morrow?
He engaged to be here at that hour with the deeds, repeated the young man.
Well, said his father, yawning, you have nothing more to say, nor I neitheroblige me by withdrawing. So parted these congenial relations.
The past day had been an agitating one to Mary Ashwoode. Still suspense was to be her doom, and the same alternations of hope and of despair were again to rob her pillow of repose; yet even thus, happy was she in comparison with what she must have been, had she but known the schemes of which she was the unconscious subject. At this juncture we shall leave the actors in this true tale, and conclude the chapter with the close of day.